Bloomsbury (2017) p/b 368pp £18.99 (ISBN 9781474299831)
As a regular, and very satisfied, user of the original edition of this book, I was rather sceptical about whether a second edition was necessary. What might one want to change? Words duly eaten. The book provides a significant number of equally significant improvements, and the new edition is about 100 pages longer than the original.
The design and layout of the book are much more user-friendly. There is more generous spacing, more helpful use of colour, and the exercises are in ‘boxes’ which allow them to stand out from the text. In addition, examples are laid out in columns, so that English translations sit next to the original Latin rather than underneath it. This makes them very much easier to take in.
The exercises which require translation into English are more substantial, typically containing ten sentences rather than five; and several times per chapter, extended passages of unseen translation have been added, to supplement the sentence-style exercises and to enable consolidation of what has been learned.
Complex grammatical points which have been met at GCSE are recapitulated using examples as well as description/explanation. For example, the jussive subjunctive has two new examples (where there were none in the first edition): statim proficiscamur! and fiat lux! Both come with translations which make it clear what the ‘jussive’ epithet means.
The changes are even more profound once the book moves from grammar to reading, to reflect the changes in the A level specification. There are new authors in the AS practice unseens. At A2, the ‘tasks’ of prose unseen, verse unseen and prose comprehension have been separated out, and the prose passages drawn from a wider selection of authors than in the original edition. The useful vocabulary for verse unseens has been increased from 250 to 300 words.
Completely new are extended prose composition passages for A2, together with very useful guidance on how to approach continuous prose, as opposed to the sentences earlier in the book.
Chapter Six, entitled ‘Readings’, contains the same passages as in the first edition, but laid out in a much more reader-friendly way; the reference grammar and summaries of syntax likewise contain no (perceptible) changes of substance, but are easier to read. There is, however, a new—and very useful—glossary of grammar terms just before the final vocabulary lists.
Altogether, a very welcome update, a textbook endorsed by OCR for GCE, and much to be recommended.
Jeannie Cohen—Francis Holland School